Torres Strait artists defend our oceans - Art Collector

Artist Brian Robinson in front of mud crab artwork. Photo: Michel Dagnino. Courtesy: Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

The Torres Strait has moved to Monaco. A major survey of contemporary Indigenous art recently opened its doors at Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, marking the beginning of one of the most ambitious exhibitions ever staged by Indigenous artists in Europe. 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait artists, most of whom are based in remote parts of the Torres Strait and Northern Queensland, had ambitious large scale works shipped half way across the globe over several weeks to be presented throughout the museum’s three floors and rooftop terrace, each speaking to the importance of ocean preservation and the urgent need to protect Australia’s oceans and marine life. The exhibition couldn’t come at a more poignant time as the national and international debate strengthens around the urgent need to protect Australia’s oceans, and in particular the Great Barrier Reef.

Just some of the exhibition highlights include Ghost Net sculptures by artists from Erub Arts, Pormpuraaw Art Centre and Tjutjuna Arts and Culture Centre, Four-metre wide aluminium crabs by Waiben artist Brian Robinson and a vivid installation by the renowned Ken Thaiday. On the rooftop, Alick Tipoti’s extraordinary 670 square metre stencilled installation is set against a spectacular backdrop of surrounding Monaco.

Artist Alick Tipoti stencil artwork on rooftop of Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. Photo: Michel Dagnino. Courtesy: Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

Since opening at the end of March the exhibition has had an “overwhelmingly positive response” among local and international audiences, according to Stephane Jacob, director of Arts d’Australie gallery in Paris and project manager of the exhibition in partnership with Queensland gallerist Suzanne O’Connell, project coordinator in Australia. Jacob comments: “Australia: Defending the Oceans has been very warmly received by the Monaco museum dignitaries, art world leaders and Prince Albert II at the private opening event which he attended. The artists have also been thrilled … by this opportunity to draw attention to their precious ocean environments. They are committed to sharing knowledge about the oceans, and finding innovative solutions to the dangers that threaten them.”

Artist Ken Thaiday in front of Dhari artwork. Photo: Michel Dagnino. Courtesy: Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco specialises in supporting contemporary responses to ideas and debates around the world's oceans and has presented works by major artists such as Damien Hirst. Opened in 1910, the Museum took 11 years to build. In addition to contemporary art, the museum is also home to an award-wining aquarium holding 4,000 tropical fish.

Australia: Defending the Oceans runs from 24 March to 30 September 2016 at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, Monaco.

Camilla Wagstaff

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